The Gospel Of Luke

Luke 13:6-9 (CEV)

Jesus then told them this story:

A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard. One day he went out to pick some figs, but he didn’t find any. So he said to the gardener, “For three years I have come looking for figs on this tree, and I haven’t found any yet. Chop it down! Why should it take up space?”

The gardener answered, “Master, leave it for another year. I’ll dig around it and put some manure on it to make it grow.Maybe it will have figs on it next year. If it doesn’t, you can have it cut down.”

Rooting For The Underdog

Have you ever rooted for the underdog?

Anyone who roots for the Toronto Maple Leafs year after year can answer an easy ‘yes’ to this.

But what about rooting for a colleague at work who’s been struggling to work to expectations?

A friend or fellow student in your class who was struggling to make the grade?

Have you ever seen potential in someone who just seems, time and time again, to fail to follow through to the level you know they can?

When we fight for the underdog, we put ourselves and our reputation on the line a bit, don’t we? It’s a risky business, it can be exhausting, and by no means does it carry a guarantee of the outcome.

But have you ever had someone fight for you when you were the underdog?

Stand up for you in front of a boss or teacher? Go with you to explain the circumstances behind why you were struggling to make the grade? Show up to sit with you when everyone else had given up? Had someone pick you up or dust you off or give you another chance when you know you don’t deserve one?

Have you ever had someone come alongside of your mediocrity and say, “I think you can do better, and I’m willing to give it everything I’ve got to help you get there.”?

This is the story Jesus is telling.

It’s a story about a tree that isn’t really doing anything. It’s not doing anything wrong, but it’s just being a waste of space. Something else could be growing – and producing fruit – in the space instead. So the owner tells the gardener to get rid of it.

But the gardener says, ‘no’. He asks to have one more year. One more chance to see if he can use everything in his power to help this tree produce fruit. He can’t produce the fruit for the tree. The tree has to actually do the work. But he can support it and nurture it and water it and do everything that he knows of (and maybe some new creative ideas) to get it to produce fruit.

And the owner gives the gardener the year. One year. That’s what you get.

We don’t get to hear the end of the story. Did the fig tree succeed or fail? Was it chopped down in the end or did it survive and thrive?

We aren’t told.

Which leads me to think that maybe the outcome isn’t the point of the story.

Maybe the point of the story is that the gardener is willing to fight for the tree.

I’m going to go out on a limb here (pun intended) and suggest that Jesus is referring to himself as the gardener.

But I’m going to go further than that. Back when I was a teenager, WWJD (or What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets and t-shirts and all sorts of other paraphernalia were all the rage. But it was easy for this – like so many other sentiments – to become focused on personal purity – especially avoiding sex and drugs and tattoos!

However, here (and in so many other places throughout the Gospels) I think Jesus tells us what he would do – and what we would do, if we want to follow him.

I think one of the things that Jesus would do is to root for the underdog.

Journal Questions:

  1. Do you have any ‘underdogs’ in your life right now?
  2. What would it look like for you to choose one of them and start to root for them?
  3. What would ‘success’ (the fruiting fig tree) look like for this person?
  4. Would you need to take them out for coffee regularly to encourage them?
  5. Maybe show up at their house to give them a hand or invite them to your house to experience a deeper sense of community?
  6. Would you rooting include financial help? Meals? Extra training?
  7. How will you offer that help so that they feel loved, encouraged and built up, instead of hurt, criticized or worn down?
  8. What could you do today to start this process?